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Homeless during Hurricane Florence? Here’s where you can go, and how others can help

Five shelters for evacuees from Hurricane Florence opened Wednesday at Charlotte high schools, including this one at South Mecklenburg High School.
Five shelters for evacuees from Hurricane Florence opened Wednesday at Charlotte high schools, including this one at South Mecklenburg High School. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Four shelters opened Wednesday at Charlotte high schools and another will open Thursday morning as Hurricane Florence moves toward the coast of the Carolinas.

The shelters are primarily meant for coastal evacuees, although Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management deputy director Robert Graham said Charlotte-area residents who haven’t found shelter with friends or family can come to the high school shelters, too.

“We’re not going to turn anybody away,” he said.

All five shelters — at East Mecklenburg, South Mecklenburg, North Mecklenburg, West Mecklenburg and Ardrey Kell high schools — are pet-friendly. A shelter at Olympic High closed Wednesday night. The West Mecklenburg shelter is scheduled to open at 8 a.m. Thursday, said Jerri Jameson, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in the Carolinas.

Charlotte’s homeless shelters were also preparing for the storm Wednesday.

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At the Salvation Army Center of Hope, a shelter for women and children, staff members had been inundated with calls from coastal evacuees for two days, social services director Deronda Metz said. They were relieved to hear about the five emergency shelters opening in Charlotte.

The Center of Hope will increase its capacity by 50 with cots from the Red Cross, Metz said, and once those fill up, the shelter will direct people to the emergency shelters.

The Salvation Army needs financial donations to help with Hurricane Florence relief, spokesman Brent Rinehart said. Material donations can create logistical problems, he said, so the organization will order supplies in bulk instead.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Urban Ministry Center planned to at least stay open during its regular hours at 945 North College Street, a spokeswoman said. Center leaders will make more decisions Thursday.

On Facebook, the center asked people to donate flashlights, batteries, ponchos, tarps and tents. The items can be brought to the College Street office by 4 p.m. Thursday.

The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte will go into its emergency overflow status Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which means 100 more men will have a place to sleep, spokesperson Randall Hitt said. Depending on weather, the shelter may continue overflow status Monday night.

In the meantime, the shelter was gathering extra food and other supplies. It doesn’t have a generator that can operate the whole shelter, Hitt said, but some food can be cooked with gas appliances.

On Thursday, the Men’s Shelter was in need of new towels and new blankets, which can be dropped off at its North Tryon Street location, Hitt said. He said financial donations would also help the shelter afford supplies for the overflow nights.

Men’s Shelter staff members were also checking on men who recently moved into permanent housing to make sure they had bottled water, flashlights and other emergency supplies, Hitt said. He said an extra $50 to stock up on days’ worth hurricane supplies may be out of reach for some of those residents, so the shelter is trying to help.

The Urban Ministry Center was also checking on newly housed residents on Tuesday, according to its Facebook page.

Getting food and sharing food

Friendship Trays, the nonprofit that provides meals for shut-ins, the elderly and people who can’t cook for themselves, was seeking extra volunteer drivers for Friday. A person answering phones for volunteers said that Thursday’s routes are covered. The organization is focused on getting extra meals out to people in Charlotte before the storm hits. If you want to volunteer as a driver Friday, call 704-333-9229 or email coordinator Martha Cochrane at mcochrane@friendshiptrays.org.

Loaves & Fishes, which runs 33 emergency pantries through Mecklenburg County, normally closes when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools close to keep their 4,000 volunteers safe, says executive director Tina Postel. But this time, they made an exception.

“We made a bunch of calls to pantry coordinators,” when CMS announced Wednesday schools would be closed Thursday and Friday. “Every single one of them agreed to stay open,” she said.

That’s a good thing: While Loaves & Fishes only handles referrals (usually from nonprofits, social workers and pastors), they’re experiencing a big uptick in needs, Postel said. In addition, the Red Cross is referring evacuees who arrive without many resources. All of the pantries, which serve about 7,000 people a year, are handling all the requests they can handle.

Postel has a request for after the storm though: After the storm and its aftermath are over, gather up the nonperishable food and water you bought as emergency supplies but didn’t use and donate them to the pantries.

“Don’t toss them out,” Postel said. “We’ll take your bottled water and your canned goods. We feed people all year long. We’ll have needs once Florence is long gone. Don’t let it sit there and go bad. Let’s put in the hands of people who need it.”

To do that, you can take it to the pantry that’s nearest to you (find a list on their website, www.loavesandfishes.org) or to the main warehouse, 648 Griffith Road, Suite B.

Staff Writers Joe Marusak and Kathleen Purvis contributed.

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Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester
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